A sorcerer with a laser pointer and a detained girl who knits to beat boredom. English Touring Opera performs Amadigi at York Theatre Royal and with their expressive and witty production, make the audience giggle several times.
There’s the Messiah of course and the Water Music, we all love Handel! (Or I might be biased).
I’ve seen Rinaldo, Giulio Cesare, Orlando and now the list got longer with an additional name- Amadigi di Gaula. It is certain that the opera could be put on the ‘Best of Handel’ playlist.
This opera is less known and performed rarely, but that does not mean it is any less enjoyable than the famous Handel pieces. One characteristic that is typical of the composer is that he likes to try, reuse, and we could even say ‘copy-paste’ melodies from other of his pieces.
This composition is not the one where a choir of 40 people is going to emerge between 7 soloists and 5 new characters introduced at each act. It is a small-scale magic opera played in 3 acts with 4 main characters- which makes the show adaptable, probably that is a reason why English Touring Opera took it with them on the move.
The writer of the libretto is unknown but the simplicity of the story enriched with Handel’s music was already a great success in the premiere in 1715.
Melissa the sorceress who is in love with Amadigi captured both the hero and his love Oriana. Dardano, another trapped character realises that he loves the same woman as Amadigi. To revenge this, he tells Melissa that Amadigi plans to escape from the tower. Melissa sets up an obstacle through which only the most heroic can get a pass. As expected, Amadigi overcomes the challenge, to which Melissa sets up another plan, including Dardano impersonating Amadigi. Eventually, as the story escalates the lovers are going to end up in each other’s arms, leaving the sorceress with no other choice than to take her own life. As a fifth character, the god of love appears at the end of Act 3 to remind everyone, love is superior.
The conductor of the orchestra, Jonathan Peter Kenny shares that in a baroque opera, high voices illustrate masculinity, virility and heroism. This could not be more obviously exemplified than the fact that the character of Amadigi, the famous hero is sung by a countertenor.
William Towers, in this case, shares the title role with Tim Morgan. Countertenor was an extremely popular type of male voice in the 18th century and their vocal range is equivalent to an alto or mezzo-soprano. Therefore, when Amadigi sang a duett with Dardano, acted by the mezzo-soprano Rebecca Afonwy Jones- the two singers sang in the same register.
The sorceress Melissa is played by Jenny Stafford and Francesca Chiejina, which undeniably enchanted me. Stafford’s performance was outstanding and her delivery of the character even made the audience feel for the evil clairvoyant. In the centre of the love triangle, Oriana was acted by the coloratura Harriet Eyley, knitting a long scarf in her cell, waiting to be saved. It is important to mention how the lighting design was on point! Rory Beaton lighting director made the effect participate in the storytelling just as much as the excellent arias.
English Touring Opera traditionally involves local musicians, in their shows. At York, the character of love was performed by Ackash Patel a young local singer.
The performance of the singers was enriched with the expressive set and costume design by Neil Irish.
The oncoming destinations of English Touring Opera’s Amadigi are, Bradford-on-Avon, Saffron Walden, Ulverston, Tunbridge Wells, Snape Maltings Concert Hall and Exeter.
More information is available here.